Friday, December 30, 2011

#303 - George Hendrick

We're closing out the year with one last Yankee Stadium shot. George Hendrick strikes a mellow pose during his first season for his new team. Unlike fellow tradee (that probably isn't a real word) Dave Duncan, George was never able to wrangle a regular spot back in Oakland. So while it would be a long time before he would again see any Series action, that was probably OK with him since he traded the rings for a bunch more playing time. I say probably because back then George wasn't a big fan of the media so it is pretty tough to find anything he actually said. Ironically, though, he was a very stabilizing and helpful influence in the locker room and lots of fellow players were big fans. But not all of them.

George Hendrick grew up in LA and attended John Fremont High School there where he didn't play any sports (?!!). He then attended East Los Angeles Junior College - where he also didn't play baseball - and was the first draft pick in the January '68 draft by Oakland. I guess he played baseball elsewhere. The draft was interesting for a couple reasons. When Oakland took George their spokesperson said he thought he could be "a good average baseball player." Talk about low expectations. The draft also produced Glen Adams and Mickey Rivers later in the same round. The second player drafted was a pitcher from the University of Alabama named Ken Stabler. That guy picked a different sport. Meanwhile our boy here got his start that summer in A ball where he stayed halfway through '70. His averages were quite good but his power was inconsistent. He moved to Double A the second half of '70 then moved to Triple A for '71 where he put up excellent numbers. Those got him a mid-season promotion to Oakland where he put in a few games at each outfield position. In '72 he got a few starts in center while Reggie was hurt and then pretty much took his place in the post-season where he scored the winning run against Detroit but only hit .133 in the Series. Prior to the '73 season he was sent to Cleveland with Dave Duncan for Ray Fosse and Jack Heidemann.

When Hendrick moved to the Indians he really raised the bar performance-wise. In four full seasons there he averaged 22 homers and 74 RBI's while nabbing two All-Star selections. He provided the best outfield offense since Rocky Colavito was hot and began doing his mentoring thing in earnest. His one demerit was that he was sometimes viewed as a loafer. Among his nicknames were "Silent George" - for the whole press thing - and "George the Jogger." The book "The Curse of..." details a time he misplayed a fly ball that made pitcher Gaylord Perry so infuriated he announced that George would never play behind him again. But George outlasted Gaylord by a few months. After the '76 season he moved to San Diego in a trade for Fred Kendall, Johnny Grubb, and Hector Torres. George's first season for the Padres was a step up from his Cleveland days - .311 with a career-high .382 OBA, 23 homers, and 81 RBI's. But after a crappy kick-off to '78 he was traded to the Cards for Eric - or Harry - Rasmussen.

Hendrick experienced an immediate revival for St. Louis, raising his average over 40 points and tapping 17 homers and 67 RBI's in about two-third's of a season. After a '79 in which he was part of a four-starter outfield and his stats shrunk a little, he put up a bang-bang season in '80 with career-best 25 homers and 109 RBI's with a .302 average. He won the Silver Slugger that year for right field. After a pretty good year in the strike-shortened '81 he again pushed the RBI total over 100 in '82 despite missing time with elbow and leg injuries. He then put up a nice post-season with a .317 average and seven RBI's in ten games for the Series winners. In '83 the Cards traded Jack Clark and George took over first where his .318 with 18 homers and 97 RBI's won him another Silver Slugger. In '84 injuries helped pull down his numbers as he returned to right field. After the season he was sent to the Pirates with Steve Barnard for Brian Harper and John Tudor in a huge trade for St. Louis. With Pittsburgh George really couldn't get it going and that August he went back to the AL, moving with John Candelaria and Al Holland to the Angels for Mike Brown, Pat Clements, and Bob Kipper. But the late-season magic wasn't there this time and he only hit .122 the rest of the way. In '86 he settled nicely into an outfield reserve role for the division winners. After playing reduced roles the next two seasons he retired. George finished with a .278 average with 267 homers, and 1,111 RBI's. In the post-season he hit .227 in 23 games. He played in four All-Star games.

After a few years away from baseball, Hendrick returned to it via coaching. He started off as the Cards' minor league hitting and outfield coach ('93-'95) and then moved up top ('96-'97). He then moved to California ('98-'99), San Diego (2000-'01 as minor league coach and '02 as a manager), and LA ('03 up top and '03 to '04 in the minors). In 2005 he became the Rays' first base coach, a gig he has had since. His record as a manager is 75-65.

George's three homers were consecutive in that '73 game. Given the cartoon it seems he wasn't exactly a font of information for the Topps guys either. George would have some interesting cards down the road. His '75 card looks like it was taken seconds after this one and in '76 and '77 he opts for a Cleveland visor instead of a hat or helmet. Seems like he marched to his own drum.

Speaking of music, on New Year's Eve '73 two big concerts took place miles apart. In NYC local bands Kiss and Blue Oyster Cult had their first gigs in a large venue, the Academy of Music - later known as the Palladium - on 14th Street. Over in Sydney a band pefrormed its first concert at a club: AC/DC made its debut. In '74 Lindsey Buckingham and his girlfriend Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, forming the version of the band that would hit it huge in a couple years.

These two guys certainly faced each other a bunch of times:

1. Hendrick and Chris Chambliss '73 to '74 Indians;
2. Chambliss and Rudy May '74 to '76 Yankees.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

#302 - Rudy May

In our next Yankee Stadium shot we get Rudy May, another player who would make this stadium his home base eventually. Rudy looks dead serious here and a quick look at his season may tell us why. In '73 Rudy started the season 6-6 with a 2.91 ERA. Four of his wins were shutouts and he seemed on his way to a pretty good season when he hurt his back. The injury occurred when he tripped over his dog while grabbing a late night snack, just to add a bizarre aspect to the story. After spending some time in traction he was rushed back, hurt his leg, and went 1-11 with an ERA well above 5.00 the rest of the way. That would put the damper on anyone's urge to smile. At least his big blue mitt looks cheery.

Rudy May was born in Coffeyville, Kansas, the same town from which Walter Johnson hailed. As a kid he moved to California and went to the same high school - where he was all-Oakland in football - that his Angel teammate Frank Robinson attended. Rudy was signed by the Twins in '62, too late to play that season. So in '63 he went to A ball where he went 11-11 and was then picked up by the White Sox in the first year draft. For Chicago he split the season between A and Triple A ball, going a combined 17-8 with a 2.61 ERA and 235 strikeouts in 207 innings. Rudy by then had a wicked curve and a running fastball but back then the Sox were awash in good young pitchers so after the season they sent him to the Phillies for catcher Bill Heath. Philly then turned around and sent Rudy to the Angels for Bo Belinski and in '65 Rudy got promoted all the way up. His first start against Detroit he threw no-hit ball into the eighth inning and finished with a one-hitter. The rest of the season didn't go that well but he showed promise and in '66 he put some time in at Double and Triple A around a military hitch. He had some control issues so in '67 he moved back down to Single A and went 7-2 with a 3.11 ERA. In '68 he moved up to Double A and went 8-7 with a high ERA but did pull his K mark much higher. In '69 he returned to the majors.

May would have a pretty good run for California the next four seasons. Although his record was only 40-49 his ERA was considerably better than league average and he was the most consistent starter on the staff during his time there. Both Tony Oliva and Rod Carew would later say that Rudy was the pitcher they each least liked to face. After his '73 experience and a decaying relationship with manager Bobby Winkles - Rudy blamed him for pitching him too soon after the injury - Rudy was moved to the pen to kick off the '74 season. That June he was sold to the Yankees, for whom he went 8-4 with a 2.28 ERA in the rotation the rest of the way. His numbers potentially could have been bigger but that summer he got his spikes caught in the turf in Kansas City and fractured his hip in a fall. The Yankees lost the division by a couple games and Rudy's mid-season injury was viewed by many as costing them the title. In '75 he enjoyed his first injury-free season in a while and won 14. After a 4-3 start to open the '76 season he went to the Orioles in a big trade with Dave Pagan, Tippy Martinez, Scott McGregor, and Rick Dempsey for Elrod Hendricks, Grant Jackson, Ken Holtzman, and Doyle Alexander.

May would win 11 for Baltimore the rest of the way and then 18 for them in '77. After the season he was involved in another big trade: he, Randy Miller, and Bryn Smith to the Expos for Joe Kerrigan, Gary Roenicke, and Don Stanhouse. That trade would work in the O's favor as two of the new guys were integral parts of the pennant winner in '79 and Rudy got hurt, dropping his win total by ten in '78. Moved to the pen for most of '79, he put up nice numbers - 10-3 with a 2.31 ERA. After that season he became a free agent and signed back with the Yankees. Rudy's first season back in NY was a big one. Splitting time between the rotation and the pen he went 15-5 with an AL-leading 2.46 ERA. He also got his first taste of post-season experience that year. In '81 he moved back to the rotation almost full time but things went awry as his record almost reversed itself to 6-11 and his ERA shot up. After a nice return to form in '82 as a swing guyn he got hurt early in the '83 season and missed all of '84. Interestingly when the White Sox lost pitcher Dennis Lamp to free agency following the '83 season, they first opted for Rudy as compensation. But he had a no-trade clause in his contract, forcing the Sox to look elsewhere. They didn't go far, snapping up Tom Seaver instead. Seaver went on to win 31 in two seasons for the Sox - including his 300th - while May retired. Nice miss. In the meantime Rudy finished with a record of 152-156 with a 3.46 ERA, 87 complete games, 24 shutouts, and 12 saves. In the post-season he went 0-1 with a 3.66 ERA in six games.

May returned to California after playing where for years he was a sales rep for Arco. He then may or may not have opened his own service station in the Fresno area where he currently resides.

Rudy had a thing with consecutive shutouts. He also threw three in a row in '73 before he got hurt. Those nine consecutive fans mentioned in the cartoon happened in A ball in '64 and were a record when it happened. While Rudy was with the Angels in the off season he worked as a salvage diver, which is definitely up there with the more interesting non-baseball pursuits.

In music, in '73 Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle" took over the number one spot in the US. It was his last number one hit as Jim had been killed in September in a plane crash. At his death his first and second albums were still climbing in the charts. He was only 30 when he passed away.

The starting pitcher gets help from a reliever in the hook-up:

1. May and Sparky Lyle '74 to '76 Yankees;
2. Lyle and Bob Montgomery '70 to '71 Red Sox.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

#301 - Bob Montgomery

Bob Montgomery opens up what will be a string of shots taken at Yankee Stadium. Here he shows a passing resemblance to Kevin Spacey in his "Usual Suspects" mode. Bob is coming off his arguably best offensive season in '73 and played the bulk of his career as the Boston back-up catcher of the Seventies. Carlton Fisk was relatively healthy in '73 so Bob's at bats were not terribly high. But that wouldn't always be the case.

Bob Montgomery grew up in Nashville and was signed out of high school by the Sox in '62. In high school he played pretty much every position but catcher and that summer he kicked things off in D ball as outfielder/third baseman. He then stuck to third when he moved up in '63 to A ball, posting pretty good power numbers. But his fielding was pretty challenged and when a coach opined that his power was lagging behind a couple other corner prospects - Joe Foy and Rico Petrocelli - Bob switched in '64 to catcher. There he had another good A ball season offensively and made the all-star team at his new position. In '65 he took a step back production-wise but the next season he improved his average significantly in Double A and Triple A. From '67 to '70 he played at Triple A. The first couple seasons despite awfully good offensive numbers he didn't get up too much. Some of this was due to military duty; more of it was due to Jerry Moses. In '69 and '70 Bob took over the starting gig for Louisville and put up excellent numbers. Late that '70 season he got his first look up top at a relatively old 26.

After his few at bats in '70 Montgomery returned the following season expecting a bunch more playing time in the wake of Moses' trade to California. But the Sox picked up Duane Josephson from the White Sox and while Bob got a bunch more at bats he was still the second guy. He retained that position after Fisk arrived for good in '72 and Josephson moved to first base. After his super sub work in '73 he got the number one gig in mid-74 when Fisk went down with an injury. His average slipped to .252 and his strikeout totals were a bit high but he did a nice job defensively and he retained his position to open the '75 season after Fisk broke his hand in spring training. Again the average slipped and once Fisk was healthy Bob's workload dropped to almost nothing. He did get an at bat late in the Series (he grounded out). From '76 to '79 Carlton stayed healthy much of the time and Bob's at bats remained low, although twice during that time he hit .300 or better. In '79 Gary Allenson became the number two receiver and after that year Bob was allowed to leave as a free agent. But there wasn't a big demand for 35-year old back-up catchers so he retired. He ended things with a .258 average, 23 homers, and 156 RBI's. His whole career he never wore a batting helmet.

Montgomery returned to Boston shortly after playing as a journalist, initially filling in on local telecasts. In '82 he took the color job on a local station after the first choice, Tony Conigliaro, suffered a stroke. Bob kept the color job through '95 when the station ended its affiliation with the Sox. He later moved to a job with Big League Promotions, which I believe he still has.

Bob's another guy who has a long list of minor league stats. Down there he hit .276 for his career with 66 homers and 432 RBI's.

In music news, 1974 saw a new number one in the States, Helen Reddy's "Angie Baby." Helen was on a pretty good run after her big hit "I Am Woman" put her on the map in '72. She and fellow Aussie Olivia Newton-John were pretty prominent back then. No comment.

Bob and Pete get together via a league-crosser:

1. Montgomery and Bernie Carbo '74 to '78 Red Sox;
2. Carbo and Pete Rose '70 to '72 Reds.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

#300 - Pete Rose

Pete Rose brings us back to the action shots, his just after he apparently dragged a bunt down the third base line at Shea. Pete has the fourth Reds action shot taken at Shea so far - Billingham, Bench, and Clay Carroll have the others - and given the size of the crowds I have been tempted to say they are playoffs shots. Billingham and Carroll did pitch in game five but in Bench's shot it looks like he hit his down the third base line and Seaver appears to be on the bench. But Bench hit only against Seaver in that game. Plus I have seen no obvious Rose at bats in any of the Shea games that would be a bunt situation. So I may be reaching. In any case, '73 was one of the best seasons of Rose's excellent career at this point and for all his hits - nobody else in the Seventies except Joe Torre in '71 and Rod Carew in '77 had as many - and for sparking the Reds to the division title he won the NL MVP. I think the most surprising thing about this card is that it only represents about halfway through Pete's career.

Pete Rose was about as local as you can get for a future Red. He was born and raised in Cincinnati and played football and baseball in high school. In the latter sport he would frequently play second base and his DP partner was Ed Brinkman, who was the more sought-after player. Pete's dad was a big athlete - he played local football for the first Bengals team - and he had Pete stay back a year in high school which meant he was ineligible to play his senior year. Instead he played for a local amateur team and in the summer of 1960 he was signed by the Reds. That summer he played D ball and hit .277 while playing second and third. The next year he upped his average to .330 - with 30 triples - while playing exclusively second and in '62 he hit for the same average in A ball. In '63 he was named second baseman on the Reds, replacing incumbent Don Blasingame (and pushing aside a young Cookie Rojas).

Rose started his Major League career strongly, allowing his hustle to replace some defensive inadequacies at second, and putting up a pretty good average. He won NL Rookie of the Year, and had one of the top OBA's on the team. He did his military hitch during the off-season and in '64 experienced a bit of a sophomore jinx, spending some time on the bench. He came back strong in '65, leading the NL in hits and boosting his OBA to .382. He made his first All-Star team and recorded the first of what would be nine straight .300 seasons. In '66 the Reds traded Frank Robinson and though Pete again had over 200 hits the team sort of had a crap year. So in '67 they moved people around a bunch and '66 ROY Tommy Helms moved to second as Pete took over left field. In '68 Tommy Harper moved to Cleveland and Pete moved to right field, where he stayed through '71, and won his first batting championship. In '69 he had probably his best offensive year, adding a .428 OBA to his NL-leading average and 120 runs. He also won his first Gold Glove. In '70 he got his first post-season experience and in '72 he led the NL in hits for the fourth time. That year with the acquisition of Cesar Geronimo, who had a stronger arm, Pete returned to left field. From '74 to '76 Pete led all of baseball in runs and doubles and the latter two years won two Series rings. A big part of the Reds' success those two seasons was Pete's move to third base which both plugged a defensive hole there and allowed George Foster to become a full-time outfielder. After two more excellent seasons - the last in which he recorded his 3,000th hit - Pete left Cincinnati as a free agent and signed with the Phillies.

Rose's first season in Philly in '79 saw him hit .331 with a .418 OBA. Since the Phillies had Mike Schmidt at third, Pete took over first base. The next season his average fell to .282 but he turned it on in the playoffs against Houston and won another ring against the Royals. In '81 he led the NL in hits for his last time with 140 in the strike season and hit .325, also the last time he would hit over .300. His average moved significantly lower the next couple years and after an '83 in which he hit .245 he was released. But at age 43 Pete was within a few hits of 4,000 so Montreal picked him up. As planned, he got his 4,000th as an Expo and then returned to Cincinnati in a mid-season trade for Tom Lawless. After hitting .365 the balance of the '84 season Pete, now the manager as well, played himself as the starting first baseman in '85, allowing him to break Ty Cobb's hit record that season. After a short '86 he was done as a player. He finished with a .303 average on 4,256 hits, 2,165 runs, 756 doubles, 160 homers, 1,314 RBI's, and a .375 OBA. He hit .321 in 67 post-season games. He made 17 All-Star games, won two Gold Gloves, and a Silver Slugger and led the NL in hits seven times, doubles five times, runs four times, and average three times. He had over 200 hits ten seasons.

Rose managed the Reds from '84 to '89, going 412-373 for his career. In '89 he ran afoul of commissioner Bart Giamatti for allegedly betting on baseball games - possibly including his own - charges he initially denied but has slowly taken responsibility for over the years. The '89 agreement he forged with baseball banished him from association with the game and so far has wrecked his chance for election to the Hall. He was also busted for tax evasion and served some jail time in the early Nineties. He has since written a couple books, pleaded his case for reinstatement, and supports himself through appearances and memorabilia sales.

Pete has a great card back deserving of the milestone card in this set. He would only hit .214 in the '72 Series. An interesting record he has is the most career RBI's for a player that never hit 100 or more in a single season.

We'll use some old guys for this hook-up:

1. Rose and Deron Johnson '63 to '67 Reds;
2. Johnson and Felipe Alou '68 Braves;
3. Alou and Gene Michael '71 to '73 Yankees.

Monday, December 26, 2011

#299 - Gene Michael

It's been a long time since I've seen this guy without white hair. Gene Michael has been affiliated with the Yankees for a long time now so locally he pops up on the YES network enough times that he gets seen pretty regularly. Back in '73 he was enjoying his last season as a regular before the kids took over his position. During the year he was involved in a nasty fight with Carlton Fisk. While Gene was squaring to bunt, Thurman Munson took off from third in a squeeze play in Boston. Michael missed the pitch and as Thurm chugged in, Fisk pushed Michael out of the way to get to Munson. He got him twice, first with the tag and then with his fist. Michael didn't like being shoved so he started throwing punches, as did Munson. Ironically the two catchers were thrown out of the game while Gene here, who probably landed the most punches, stayed in. That kind of ability to skirt trouble must have helped him in later years working for Steinbrenner.

Gene Michael grew up as a basketball star and occasional baseball player in the Akron/Kent area of Ohio. He went to Kent University - also attended later by his buddy Munson - on a hoops scholarship and got a degree in physical education. During his time at Kent both the Pistons and the Knicks showed interest but fate stepped in when on a whim Gene attended a local Pirates tryout and ended up being offered a contract on the spot. Big and rangy with a great arm, he was signed in '59 and started things off in C ball that summer by hitting .227. He remained at that level in '60 but his average dropped so '61 saw him down in D ball. There he hit .324 and that got him promoted to B ball in '62 where he returned to his old tricks and hit .215. The next year his team moved to A ball and Gene hit above .300 again - go figure - which put him on the Pittsburgh radar. That season he also pitched over 50 innings as the Pirates wanted to see what his arm could do on the mound (what it did was about a 6.70 ERA). Back then he began being perceived with Gene Alley as the heir up top. The next three seasons he spent at Triple A as Alley won the gig, generally posting pretty low averages, although in '66 he did hit .289 in a bit over half a season. That finally got him a late look up top that year that was a bit inconclusive. When Maury Wills became available for their third base job, the Pirates sent Gene and Bob Bailey to LA to get him.

In '67 Michael was a 29 year old rookie. LA took him and Bailey to fill in the holes in the left side of the infield but they both pretty much bombed and the holes became holier. Gene only hit .202 and put up a pretty significant number of errors so the Dodgers went back to the drawing board and sold him to the Yankees for $50,000. Around then Gene actually played a summer of semi-pro hoops in the off-season - I guess he was keeping his options open - but NY was pretty desperate back then for infield help and even though Gene did almost nothing with his bat in just a bit over 100 plate appearances in '68, the Yankees were impressed enough with his arm that they sent off their incumbents at short - Tommy Tresh to Detroit and Ruben Amaro to the Angels - and handed Gene the gig in '69. He responded well, improving his fielding, and posting an aberrational .272 average. He retained the starting job through '73, although he never approached his '69 average, earning his "Stick" nickname along the way. In '74 he backed up Fred Stanley and Jim Mason and in '75 he was released and picked up by the Tigers for whom he backed up Tom Veryzer. After being dropped by Detroit after that season the Red Sox of all teams signed him essentially so that he would be on a Major League roster for ten seasons and thereby get his pension. That was very nice; I wonder where George was then.

Michael finished with a .229 average. He returned to the Yankee organization, getting a coaching job up top from '76 to '78. In '79 he managed Triple A Columbus to a league championship. In '80 he was named GM which he kept mid-way through '81 when he became one of George's revolving door managers. He managed 82 games that year and was replaced by Bob Lemon with about a month left in the season. Then in '82 he replaced Lemon for 86 games until he was booted. He then split time between admin and coaching duties until in '86 he left to manage the Cubs. He did that through most of '87 - his career managing record up top is 216-200 - and then returned to his old roles in NY. He returned to the GM position from '91 to '95 where he made some nice moves - he drafted Derek Jeter for one - and since then has been director of scouting.

Just one star bullet. The hidden ball trick is just that, the schoolyard trick of hiding the ball and tagging an unaware runner while he's off the base. Gene got poor Vic Harris of Texas on that one in '73 and employed it at least five times successfully during his career. I guess in his later professional life he collected players instead of coins.

Catching up in the music world, on December 24, 1973 Doobie Brothers guitarist Tom Johnston was busted for - what else - carrying doobies at an airport. The group was touring to support its "What Were Once Vices are Now Habits" album. I guess old Tom adhered a little too closely to that mantra.

This one will be all AL, courtesy of those wonderful trades the Indians and Yankees cooked up in the early '70's:

1. Michael and Fritz Peterson '68 to '74 Yankees;
2. Peterson and Roric Harrison '75 Indians.

Friday, December 23, 2011

#298 - Roric Harrison

Roric Harrison unveils a mustache on this card at Shea. Roric has a passing resemblance to Peter Sellers when he played Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies. His 'stache would come and go on his cards and when it reappeared in '76 it was big and bold which seemed more suitable than this wispy thing. A friend of mine went to this guy's son's wedding a few years ago, so I have a very distilled personal relationship to this player. It shouldn't be a big deal to anybody - it's not a big deal to me - but I like to throw these small musings out there in the hope they make the blog more interesting. Probably not. That looks like Gary Gentry and Frank Tepedino behind Roric and maybe Wayne Garrett taking infield.

Roric Harrison was born in LA and went to Westchester High School down around there. When he finished he was signed by the Astros as a free agent. He spent the summer in Rookie and A ball but had a tough time control-wise and threw up a pretty high ERA. He split '66 between a couple A teams where the control got much better but the other numbers didn't. After missing just about all of '67 for military duty he returned in '68 to go a combined 5-15 between Double and Triple A (Topps has him at 2-4 at Triple A Oklahoma City while baseball-reference has him at 4-10; given he was a starter back then, the latter record seems more likely). In '69 Roric got hurt in his shoulder and back and missed pretty much the whole season. During his recovery he was traded to the Seattle Pilots with Dooley Womack for Jim Bouton. For the Pilots/Brewers Roric stayed in Triple A and had a tough year getting back in shape. He was then sent to the Orioles with a guy named Marion Jackson for Marcelino Lopez. In '71 the magic of the O's system fell upon Roric, taught him something resembling a forkball, and helped guide him to produce by far his best season: 15-5 with a 2.81 ERA. The next spring he made the Baltimore staff.

Finally up top at 25, Harrison had a nice debut for the O's. Almost exclusively a starter in the minors he worked out of the Baltimore pen in '72 and added four saves to his listed stats. That November he was then part of a big trade that sent him, Davey Johnson, Pat Dobson, and Johnny Oates to the Braves for Taylor Duncan and the coveted Earl Williams. In Atlanta Roric kicked things off in the pen, then moved into the rotation, grabbing 22 starts and producing most of his decisions. Although his ERA was a tad high he had one of the better records on the staff. In '74 he was strictly a starter but his ERA continued to climb and his record more than reversed itself as nagging back issues limited him to 20 games. In '75 he split time between relieving and starting in 15 games before he was traded that June to the Indians for Blue Moon Odom and Rob Belloir. While he got moved into the Indians rotation the numbers really didn't get much better and just prior to the start of the '76 season Roric was sent to the Cards for former Met Harry Parker. St. Louis sent him to Triple A Tulsa but he only got in 15 games before he injured his elbow, requiring an operation. After being released in spring training the next year Roric hooked up with the Tigers and again spent the season in Triple A. His numbers that season were actually quite good - 9-5 with a 3.29 ERA and 11 saves - and he was supposed to go up in August to take Mark Fidrych's spot on the Detroit roster after The Bird got hurt. But he pulled a muscle and instead a guy named Jack Morris took his place, setting in motion his great career. In '78 Roric was picked up and dropped by the Pirates and then hooked up with the Twins. He put in a bunch of games in relief for Triple A Tacoma and even got in a couple up top. At the end of the season he was released, ending his playing career. He finished with a 30-35 record, a 4.24 ERA, 12 complete games, and ten saves.

After he finished playing, Harrison returned to California. For a number of years he has been the head of new business at a company called Altair Global that specializes in relocating people and whole companies both domestically and globally.

Roric has a crowded card back like Hal Breeden did and just gets the one star bullet. The cartoon is a lot better and that season he was pretty much the jewel of the O's minor leagues.

On this date in '73 Elton John had his concert picked up on BBC radio live. He was touring for his very successful double album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and the set ended with a big blow out of "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting."

Roric did some traveling so let's see if it helps:

1. Harrison and Carl Morton '73 to '75 Braves;
2. Morton and Hal Breeden '72 Expos.

I don't normally post on weekends so to everyone that celebrates it, Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

#297 - Hal Breeden

In our first action shot in about forever - although another one will be coming up pretty quickly - Hal Breeden gets set at first base as a pitch is unloaded at what I believe is Candlestick, judging by those big vertical post things on the outfield wall. That looks like a black guy behind Hal in center field which means it is most likely Ron Woods. Like other recent post subjects, Hal had a career season in '73, joining a bunch of other Montreal starters and role players in leading the Expos to their best season and highest finish to date. Hal has had a pretty interesting run of things, so lets get to it.

Hal Breeden was born in Albany, Georgia and grew up in neighboring Leesburg which would remain his home base throughout his life. At Albany High Hal was an infielder and outfielder while his older brother Danny (who played a few games with the Cubs in '71) was a catcher. Both were signed in '63, Danny by the Cards and Hal by the Braves. Hal began what would be a long minor league career that summer in A ball, getting off to a great start. In '64 after hitting over .400 at that level, he moved up to Double A Austin where he would stay through '66. Never able to generate consistently good offensive numbers at that level in '67 he was moved back to A ball where he returned to over .300 in a couple leagues. In '68 he moved back to Double A finally matching his lower level stats with a big - although short - season. That got him promoted to Triple A Richmond where he spent the next two seasons and had his biggest full offensive year in '70, adding a .406 OBA to his homer and RBI totals. That November he was traded to the Cubs for Hoyt Wilhelm who was still going strong. After a couple games for the Cubbies at Triple A Tacoma, Hal came up top to do some late-inning work for Chicago and while not getting much work, did get to reside on a Major League roster for about half a season with his brother. Then, prior to the '72 season, he was sent with Hector Torres to the Expos for Dan McGinn.

With Montreal Breeden reprised his late-innings specialist role, again not seeing too much time, but pushing up his stats considerably. Then in '73 Ron Fairly became primarily an outfielder and Hal and Mike Jorgensen pretty much split time at first. Hal responded in a big way, pushing his average up 45 points and adding some pretty good power along with fine defensive work. He also posted a .353 OBA. In '74 it was pretty much the same deal but Hal's numbers came down hard, especially on the power side where he only put up two homers and 20 RBI's in 190 at bats. In '75 the Expos began employing Jose Morales, an awfully good pinch hitter, more in the late innings role, and Hal only got a few at bats, spending most of the season back in Triple A where his stats were eerily similar - 15 homers and 43 RBI's in 224 at bats - to those from '73. Just prior to the '76 season he was released by Montreal so he could go play ball in Japan. That ended Hal's time up top and he hit .243 with 21 homers and 76 RBI's in what amounted to just over a full season.

Over in Japan, Breeden enjoyed a resurgence. His first year there he hit 40 homers for the Hanshin Tigers while playing first. In '77 he hit 37 homers and he remained with the Tigers through part of the '78 season. In '79 he returned to the States where he played, coached, and managed - when Davey Johnson had to get a back operation - the Miami franchise in the new and short-lived Inter-American League. He may have done more coaching thereafter. What he definitely did was return to Albany where by '88 he was the sheriff, a position he held for the next 20 years (there are a bunch of articles on Google about his time at that position if you search with his given name). Since 2008 he has been retired.

Hal has such a long minor league jaunt - lifetime he hit .293 with 144 homers and 650 RBI's - that he only gets room for one star bullet, but it's a good one. That was a big season for him and he needed to get across the Pacific to reach those power numbers again. In his two-plus seasons in Japan Hal hit .251 with 79 homers and 194 RBI's.

When there are two guys who had short careers with one club this can be a tricky exercise, but one big-time reliever helps a bunch:

1. Breeden and Mike Marshall '72 to '73 Expos;
2. Marshall and Rod Carew '78 Twins;
3. Carew and Ray Corbin '71 to '75 Twins.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

#296 - Ray Corbin

So this is going to be one of those posts about a pretty anonymous guy who stays pretty anonymous. In a couple hours I have been able to find almost nothing about our friend here from before, during, and after his career. I remember as a kid the Yankee announcers would point out how tall he was but that's about all I can regurgitate so this one is going to be just by the numbers and the absolutes. The first of the latter set is that Ray here is in Oakland in a posed shot that gives us a pretty good glance at his near-unibrow, although that feature was much more highlighted in the '72 set. If this photo was taken during the '73 season Ray should have been enjoying himself. Of his 51 games that year seven were starts which means he threw over 100 innings in relief in 44 games and recorded 14 saves as the closer. That's a pretty good season which is why I'm surprised there's not too much literature out there on him.

Ray Corbin grew up in Live Oak, Florida, where he attended high school out of which he was signed by the Twins in '67. That year and most of '68 he pitched in Rookie ball, splitting time between the rotation and the pen. In '68 he also threw in A ball a few games. The next year he had a nice season at that level for two different leagues and pitched almost entirely as a starter. Then in '70 he put up good numbers in Double A ball which allowed his promotion in '71 to Minnesota. In '71 despite a high ERA and some control issues he had a generally good rookie season that included eleven starts. The next year he upped his starts, improved his control, and lowered his ERA substantially. After his fine '73 things seemed to be rolling pretty smoothly. After winning his final five decisions in '73 Ray won his first five in '74 and by late June was going great guns. He then took a shot off his pitching hand, missed a bunch of games, and went 2-6 the rest of the way with an ERA around 7.00. In '75 things got a bit worse when he was diagnosed with bone chips in his pitching elbow and had a season-ending surgery to repair them that August. Ray took through '76 spring training to recover and when the season kicked off he was opted to Double A where after a couple games he was released. Ray went 36-38 up top with a 3.84 ERA, 12 complete games, three shutouts, and 17 saves.

In 1991 when the Twins were on their way to a Series title, Scott Erickson was having a pretty good run consecutive victory-wise. Since at that time both Corbin and Bert Blyleven had the franchise record Ray's name was dragged out for the first time in many years. Back then he was and for a while had been a gym teacher at a junior high school in the Napa area of California. I would imagine then that he took some time to get a teaching degree and eventually got that gig. There is still a Ray Corbin with the same first name listed in that neck of the woods so it is entirely possible that he is still at it.

A lot of noise, including on the back of Ray's '75 card, has been made about Ray's three straight seasons ('71 to '73) of eight wins and 83 strikeouts. So Topps blew that last stat on this card on the '73 line. In '72 Ray also had 27 consecutive innings of shutout ball. I guess the tennis came in useful in his later life as a PE guy.

I missed a big music item yesterday. On that date in '73 Bobby Darin passed away from a heart condition. He was only 37. Bobby's big hits - "Splish, Splash", "Mack the Knife", and "Under the Sea" - were big sellers in the late Fifties and early Sixties. In '74 new number one songs appeared in both the States and the UK. Here Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle," the ultimate guilt song for any dad, began a one-week run at the top. In the UK another holiday-themed song took over: "Lonely This Christmas" by a group called Mud. I'd never heard of this one so I just checked it out on YouTube. It's a sort of doo-wop song sung by a guy who looks like Randy Newman pulling a fast one. It's pretty funny - although I don't think intentionally so - and is linked to here.

Some '73 trades help in this hook-up:

1. Corbin and George Mitterwald '71 to '73 Twins;
2. Mitterwald and Rick Monday '74 to '76 Cubs.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

#295 - Rick Monday

Bummer! I missed posting Rick Monday's card on a Monday by a day. But I'm generally behind so I didn't want to slow my postings down any more. Rick is smiling broadly at Candlestick in what was arguably the best season of his career to date in '73. A power-hitting center fielder who would bat at the top of the Chicago order, he recorded highs until then in runs - 93 - and homers, both of which he would surpass in '76. Rick got there in time to solidify the outfield with Jose Cardenal, Billy Williams, and Jerry Morales; unfortunately though, that time coincided with the vaunted infield shutting down and it would be a while before he would again see any post-season action with a whole other team.

Rick Monday was born in Arkansas and when he was a year old moved to California. He grew up a local multi-sport star and when he came out of high school was being chased by a bunch of teams. He opted for Bobby Winkle's pitch and went to Arizona State instead in '63. After sitting out his freshman year he played summer ball for the Goldpanners in Alaska with Tom Seaver, Graig Nettles, and Gary Sutherland. Returning to ASU he won College Player of the Year with a .362 average and led the team to the CWS title (though Sal Bando was the tournament MVP). He was then drafted and signed as the first guy ever by Kansas City in '65 for $104,000. He finished up the year in A ball where he poked 13 homers and 44 RBI's. In '66 he moved up to Double A and again showed pretty good power with 23 homers and 72 RBI's. He also posted a .384 OBA and struck out 143 times. Big K totals would be a feature of his career. After a couple games up top that summer he returned in '67 to fill the starting spot in center field. While his rookie numbers were nothing special, his homer and RBI totals led the team. He also made that year's Topps Rookie All-Star Team. The next year he was one of the few AL guys to pull his average up and he enjoyed his first All-Star selection, but the arrival of fellow ASU stars Bando and Reggie pushed him all over the lineup so his power numbers came in a bit. As the A's improved markedly with the addition of other players, Rick's lineup movement would be characteristic of his stay in Oakland. After a couple seasons under John McNamara, the team was led by Al Dark in '71. Dark began platooning Rick with Angel Magual, which meant that Monday wasn't one of his manager's biggest fans. After playing only one game in the AL playoffs that year Rick was traded to the Cubs for fellow '65 All-American Ken Holtzman.

For the Cubs Monday would be a welcome addition. Always a hustler who played a very good center field, he enjoyed lineup stability he never had in Oakland, always appearing near or at the top of the order. His walk to K ratio improved and his numbers became more consistent. In '74 he hit .294 as the rest of his numbers nearly matched '73's. In '75 he maxed out his doubles with 29 and nearly had as many walks as strikeouts. In '76 he finished third in NL homers and runs scored, with 32 and 107 respectively. That April he also raised his profile significantly when in LA he rescued an American flag from a couple of fans who jumped on the field and were about to burn it as an act of protest. After that season he was traded to the Dodgers with Mike Garman for Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus.

Monday kicked off his LA career as the primary guy in center although his at bats came way in since he shared time there with Reggie Smith and Glenn Burke. His homer totals more than halved but that turned out to be OK since there was plenty of power in the lineup. That year he also returned to the post-season for the first time since '71. The next year he split center with Billy North, who ironically more-or-less replaced him in Oakland. Rick's offensive numbers improved that season and in '79 he was off to a nice start when he injured his ankle and missed pretty much the rest of the season. By the time he returned in '80 Rudy Law and then Ken Landreaux - yet another ASU guy - had taken over in center and Rick would be a reserve guy. But his '80 numbers were pretty good and in '81 he was a super-sub, hitting .315 with 11 homers and 25 RBI's in only 130 at bats. The icing on the cake that year was when he hit a playoff-winning homer against Steve Rogers to put LA in The Series. After another clutch year in '82 - 42 RBI's in 210 at bats, Rick then played out his career in LA until released in June of '84. He hit .264 lifetime with 241 homers, 775 RBI's, and a .361 OBA. In the post-season he hit .210 in 30 games.

Immediately after playing Monday moved into broadcasting, hosting a local pre-game show for the Dodgers beginning in '85 as well as a play-by-play gig on cable. He also did some newscasting and called the '88 CWS. From '89 to '92 he called Padres games on television. He returned to LA in '93 and since then has done both radio and TV work as both the color and the play-by-play guy.

Rick has some pretty good star bullets. Defensively he also led the NL in fielding in '72 and ranks high in lifetime stats in center: he is in the top 75 in assists and double plays and in the top 50 in putouts. He also played in the game in '76 in which Mike Schmidt hit four out so he's been on both sides of that one. He may be the first guy in this set who actually ended up doing for a living what his cartoon indicated.

Big trades are big helps here:

1. Monday and Fergie Jenkins '72 to '73 Cubs;
2. Jenkins and Steve Foucault '74 to '75 Rangers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

#294 - Steve Foucault

Here we have a rookie card shot taken in spring training, which is about as rookie as you get. The biggest surprise I got while researching this post was how short Steve's career actually was. He put up generally quite good numbers including a rookie season in '73 in which he posted eight saves despite: a) pitching for Texas; and b) missing two months for a dislocated shoulder he suffered running into another pitcher during warm-ups (that's how life rolled for the Rangers back then). But Steve was done by the time he was 28 and it's really going to bug me if I can't figure out why that was. So let's get this thing going.

Like Milt May, the subject of the prior post, Steve Foucault was born in the mid-west - in this case Minnesota - and moved to Florida as a kid. After graduating from Miami's Coral Park High, Steve went to South Georgia College, a two-year school that was a local baseball factory. There he pitched a little but his primary position was third base. He was drafted by the Senators upon graduating in '69 and had sort of a nasty start to his career, injuring his knee after just a couple games in Rookie ball that summer. That injury spelled the end of his position career and the next year, after winter work, he re-started himself in A ball as a pitcher. Steve, who never started a game at any level, spent all of '71 in the pen in A ball as well and then his amazing numbers at that level in '72 got him moved mid-season to Triple A Denver. After more good work there he came out of spring training '73 on the Texas roster.

In '74 Foucault went 8-9 with a 2.24 ERA with 12 saves in 144 innings as the team's closer. Billy Martin loved the guy and Steve averaged over two innings an appearance. The only real down moment of the season was when he was slugged in the face during the infamous ten-cent beer night in Cleveland. In '75 an early-season shoulder injury compromised his effectiveness a bit as his K totals came way down and his ERA shot up almost two runs. He still went 8-4 with ten saves in over 100 innings. Then in '76 his innings came way down as the Rangers moved to bullpen-by-committee although he still got the most closes and went 8-8 with five saves and pulled his ERA back to 3.33. The first week of the '77 season after seeing no work he was sent to Detroit for Willie Horton.

For the Tigers Foucault occupied the closer role the rest of the season and he was characteristically good, going 7-7 with a 3.15 ERA and 13 saves. Then in '78, despite putting up the second best numbers in the pen for a revived team - Detroit would post its first winning record since '73 - he was released that August. I have seen indications that the nagging shoulder injury was to blame which seems correct since his innings were pretty low but have seen nothing specific. He was picked up by the Royals but after only a few innings was released by them as well. In '79 he hooked up with Houston but after a 7.71 ERA in seven innings for them in Triple A he was released, ending his time as a pitcher. For lack of anything else, the evidence in a few seasons of declining work but with pretty good stats points to injury. Steve finished up top with a record of 35-36 with 52 saves and a 3.21 ERA. In the minors he went 18-11 and posted a .287 batting average.

Foucault eventually went the coaching route after playing. Initially according to one source he was a cop back in Arlington. Then by '92 he was in Milwaukee's system as a pitching coach. There he hooked up with manager Wayne Krenchiki and the two were inseparable thereafter. After their team became independent in '95 they both moved around various independent leagues, reaching Newark (2007-'08), Evansville ('09-'10) and the Long Island Ducks ('11). Steve still has the huge mustache he picked up during the '74 season.

Topps gets a little liberal with these star bullets. He did hit .286 in '69 but in only seven at bats. That 0.45 ERA is pretty tough to beat and the over a strikeout an inning feat is worth mentioning, but "remarkable?" (although I guess it's cool if we take that word literally). The cartoon is worth our attention. Steve could submarine as well as anybody which he did from college ball on, probably helping to hasten his move to the pitching spot.

These two migrants to Florida also played together:

1. Foucault and Milt May '77 to '78 Tigers.

Friday, December 16, 2011

#293 - Milt May

Wow, another one? We are in the midst of an onslaught of these non-Traded traded cards, this one being the flip side of one of Jerry Reuss from many posts ago. Milt May is smack dab in the middle of his last season as Manny Sanguillen's backup and is the third - after Dave and Carlos - of what will be five Mays in this set. Plus the guy whom he took over from was Jerry May. And Milt wasn't related to any of those guys. '73 would be his most active season to date. He got a bunch of early-season starts when Manny moved to fill his late buddy Roberto Clemente's spot in right field. Then when that experiment failed, Milt was relegated back to reserve. But he was headed to Houston to be the starter again so maybe the looking off yonder look is being thoughtful about that. He also looks like he's about to cough up his chaw.

Milt May was born in Gary, Indiana - ugh - and moved to Florida as a kid. He was a shortstop in high school and was drafted in '68 by the Pirates. Expecting to play third the Pirates instead moved him to catcher right away and he kicked off his first season in Rookie ball at that position. The next year he moved to A ball and put up pretty good numbers offensively - .289 with 11 homers and 57 RBI's in 301 at bats - and began displaying both an excellent ability to work with pitchers and a pretty good gun. That year after a big power display in a couple games the opposing manager had Milt plunked twice in the same game. That manager was his dad, Pinky May, who had been a third baseman for the Phillies and then a long-term minor league manager. Then in '70 Milt moved up to Triple A with better power. After a couple games in Pittsburgh that season he was in the majors for good.

Manny Sanguillen had beaten May up top by a couple seasons and with his excellent average would hold on to the starting job. But Milt did nice work as the back-up guy and despite limited at bats would hit for a better average than most other starters. His timing was pretty good post-season-wise though as Pittsburgh went to the playoffs each of his first three years. Milt even won Game 4 in the '71 Series with a pinch hit single to drive in Bob Robertson. After the '73 trade he moved to Houston to succeed John Edwards as the number one guy. It was a pretty successful transition as in '74 he hit .289 while leading NL catchers in fielding. In '75 his average fell to .241 but he led the NL in pickoffs. He also hit the three-run homer that year that scored Bob Watson as the millionth run in baseball history. After that season he was traded to the Tigers - he got a legit Traded card that year - with Jim Crawford and Dave Roberts for Gene Pentz, Leon Roberts, Terry Humphrey, and Mark Lemongello.

May's welcome to the AL was a little severe. After starting a few games he broke his ankle and missed the rest of the '76 season. He returned to be the number one guy in '77 and '78 but in the latter season lost some starting time to Lance Parrish. After beginning the '79 season in Detroit Milt was sold to the White Sox where he split the catching the rest of the year with Bill Nahorodny. At the end of the season he left and went to the Giants as a free agent. Back in the NL Milt's hitting improved quite a bit and he would be the number one San Francisco catcher for three seasons. He peaked in '81 when he hit .310 with a .376 OBA, both career highs. In '83 Bob Brenly replaced him as the starting guy and Milt was traded back to Pittsburgh for Steve Nicosia. After a season and a half of back-up and pinch hit work, Milt went unsigned and he retired. For his career Milt hit .263 with 77 homers and 443 RBI's. In the post-season he hit .300 with two RBI's in four games and as a catcher he is in the top 100 of throwing out base stealers.

May took a little time off before returning to coach in the Pittsburgh system. By '87 he was up top as Jim Leyland's hitting coach, a gig he kept through '96. He then coached for the Marlins ('97-'98), Tampa ('99), and Colorado, where he also scouted ('99-2001). Later in '01 he returned to the Pittsburgh system as minor league hitting coordinator. After a couple years there he returned to Florida where he owns and runs a marina with his son. The marina has a site through Milt's wife's real estate agency and is linked to here.

Milt has some star bullets that focus on his hitting. Moving from Gary to Florida must have been a welcome change. He was traded on Halloween.

That these guys played on the same team makes this exercise short:

1. May and Aurelio Rodriguez '76 to '79 Tigers;
2. Rodriguez and Chuck Seelbach '71 to '74 Tigers.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

#292 - Chuck Seelbach

The subject of the last post, Don Hahn, was badly injured in '73, but it wasn't a career-killer. Unfortunately for this guy, his '73 injury was substantial and this would be his final card and he'd only had one before this. Chuck here got a rotator cuff tear that never fully healed. After a nice year in '72 in the Tigers pen he was all ready for a long stay in baseball but it just didn't work out that way. Here he looks a little wistful somewhere in Kansas apparently, with miles and miles of green behind him.

Chuck Seelbach was a prep school kid in Ohio, attending The University School outside Cleveland, where he was a big athlete. He graduated in '66 and then went to Dartmouth where he concentrated on baseball. His senior year in '70 he helped pitch - with Pete Broberg - Dartmouth to the CWS by going 4-1 with three shutouts. Upon graduating he was drafted by the Tigers in the first round (while he was at Dartmouth he was drafted by both the Nats and the Cubs). In Triple A the rest of the summer he put up a nice ERA as a spot starter and reliever. Then at that level in '71 he had a 12-2 record in 18 starts and a bunch of relief appearances. In '72 he made Detroit's roster out of spring training and in John Hiller's absence assumed the closer role while helping his club reach the playoffs. He would have a tough post-season against Oakland - a couple runs in an inning of work - and when he returned in '73 he was barely out of spring training when he got hurt. He did a little rehab work back in Toledo but when he returned to Detroit for '74 he couldn't throw without pain and after a few games he was done. Chuck finished with a 10-8 record, a 3.38 ERA, and 14 saves.

After playing Seelbach got a teaching degree and returned to his old high school where he has taught history for over 30 years. Sort of a nice round trip.

Chuck is still on Dartmouth's top ten list in baseball for career strikeouts. He was All-Ivy in both his junior and senior years. He swam in high school and in '65 was the national champ in the 100 butterfly and was on the runner-ups in the 200 medley.

In '73 two number one songs debuted in the top spot. Charlie Rich's "The Most Beautiful Girl" hit in the US while Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody" was the seasonal chart topper in the UK. Slade was pretty big back then over there as a sort of glammed-up heavy metal group, but they never found similar success here. On the same date Aerosmith got a TV gig for the first time performing "Dream On" on American Bandstand.

I get to use the Mets' big lumber guy on this one:

1. Seelbach and Mickey Stanley '71 to '74 Tigers;
2. Stanley and Rusty Staub '76 to '78 Tigers;
3. Staub and Don Hahn '69 to '70 Expos and '72 to '74 Mets.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

#291 - Don Hahn

So in '73 first there was Willie Mays. Then there was Rich Chiles. Then there was Don Hahn. Willie got hurt, Chiles just wasn't very good, and so in June Don got recalled from Tidewater to play center field. He was doing a pretty good job defensively and hitting in the mid-.260's after he took over and then - boom! - the wall came down. Or The Stork came down, or over really. In July Don and George "The Stork" Theodore were chasing down a fly ball hit by Ralph Garr of Atlanta at full speed when they collided. It was pretty ugly and while The Stork got the worst of it Don was so banged up he had to throw the ball in left-handed (he was a righty) and then missed a couple weeks. But when he returned he was still the number one guy in center since while Willie was back he really just couldn't field that well any more. Don got to participate in a very exciting division race and post-season which is why he may be smiling at Shea. I am betting that's Duffy Dyer in the cage behind him. With the washed-out blue sky behind them it looks like a great day to be a Met.

Don was a big deal multi-sport athlete in San Jose and was drafted by the Giants in '66. A commenter on a Mets fan site who grew up with Don indicates he was a hood in high school which has always struck me as funny for a light hitter but I'm just stereotyping. His senior year he threw a no-hitter and hit .523. He started things off in Rookie ball that summer and then spent the next two years in Single A ball, hitting .281 in '67 and topping out power-wise in '68 with nine homers and 69 RBI's. After the '68 season he was left unprotected so the Expos grabbed him in the Rule 5 - not the expansion - draft and in '69, after making his debut up top, he spent the season at Triple A Vancouver where he hit .268. In '70 Don played most of the season in Montreal, adding a .374 OBA to his listed stats in his few at bats. By then he was considered a defensive specialist. Late in spring training of '71 he was traded to the Mets for Ron Swoboda and Rich Hacker.

In New York in '71 Hahn pretty much picked up where he left off in Montreal as a defensive sub and occasional starter behind Tommie Agee in center field. The next season NY got Willie so Don was pushed back to Tidewater where he had a good year, hitting .282 with a .369 OBA. Then in '73 he was going about the same - .274 with a .382 OBA - when he got called up. He got lots of time in the post-season and hit .239 in 12 games. Then in '74 it was all NY as Don eked out a bit more starting time in center than Dave Schneck. He hit .251 with a .328 OBA. After the season he and Dave, along with Tug McGraw, were sent to the Phillies for Del Unser, Mac Scarce, and John Stearns. After barely playing for Philly he was released, picked up by St. Louis (for whom he also barely played), and then sold to San Diego. After getting in a few games for the Padres he was released at the end of the season. He then hooked up with the Giants and for them played two seasons at Triple A Phoenix where he hit quite well - .303 and .293 - and put up a combined OBA of about .390. Then he was done. Don hit .236 up top with a .319 OBA. The '73 season was his only post-season action.

Hahn got involved in California real estate while still playing and there are several indications that he made a career out of it once he stopped. It appears he settled in that field back around the San Jose area.

Don's homer in the first star bullet was the first inside the park one hit at Veterans Stadium. Each of his brothers apparently played at some level of professional or semi-pro baseball.

No music news today but I do want to share the below:

Every year back then WABC, which was New York's biggest AM station for a bunch of years, would publish its top 100 hits for the year. It would then play them exclusively from midnight Christmas Eve until midnight New Year's Eve. A few years earlier it was a great time to listen to music because the hits were quite good. That pretty much ground to a halt in '74 when popular music really hit the skids, at least in my opinion. Here are the top songs so you can see if my judgement is accurate:

So there you go. You will probably have to click on it to clearly see all the songs. While not an exact match the WABC lists tended to correlate pretty well with Billboard's list. While there is some good stuff and Elton John was still rocking back then, a whole lot of this music is really quite forgettable. But I still wanted to share it.

So again these two guys faced each other in the '73 Series. Plus Vida and Don must have the shortest combined consecutive names of the set:

1. Hahn and Ken Singleton '71 Mets;
2. Singleton and Mike Torrez '72 to '74 Expos and '75 Orioles;
3. Torrez and Vida Blue '76 to '77 A's.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

#290 - Vida Blue

Now this is one of the things I like about Vida Blue, at least in his early days. Nobody had a bigger smile on his cards than this guy did in the '71 and '74 sets. Plus he had that great name and in '71 he was a rock star baseball player. With Vida back then it was all good. At least until it wasn't.

Vida Blue was a big high school baseball and football star - more about that on the back - in Louisiana and was drafted by Kansas City as a second-rounder in '67. The next summer he began his career in Single A and while he only went 8-11 in 24 starts he put up a 2.49 ERA, fired a no-hitter, and led his league with 231 strikeouts in only 152 innings. In '69 he sandwiched a 10-3 year in Double A around some late-summer innings up top and the next year stepped it up by going 12-3 in Triple A with a 2.17 ERA before being called up for good early that September. Then things started happening.

In Blue's first start he shut out the Royals on one hit. Then after a no decision he faced the division-leading Twins and threw a no-hitter, only giving up one walk to Harmon Killebrew. But those games were just a prelude to '71. After an off-season Army hitch, that year at 22 Vida became the youngest Cy Young winner - he is still the youngest AL one - by going 24-8 with his 1.82 ERA. The season began even better: after a late June shutout of the Royals (seven hits and 12 strikeouts) he was 16-2 with a 1.37 ERA. Although he had a late-season fade that culminated in a loss to Baltimore in the playoffs, Vida had an amazing MVP season and was a big-time celebrity. Before the '72 season he held out - he'd made about $15,000 in '71 - which delayed the start of his season that year. That plus a nagging shoulder problem led to a significant downtick in numbers that season. Then in the post season he would lose his only start but he put in a lot of good time in the pen. In '73 he returned to the 20-victory level and had a nice year but the big K totals were done. After winning 17 in '74 he won over 20 one last time with 22 victories in '75. In '76 he went 18-13 with a 2.35 ERA in what may have been his overall best season since '71. He would probably have had a few more decisions if in the wake of a failed sale to the Yankees, owner Charlie O hadn't sat him for a couple starts. By the end of that year only he and Billy North were left of any of the players who made significant contributions to the five past division winners. In '77 he went to the All-Star game for the third time in what would otherwise be a forgettable season: 14-19 with a relatively - for Vida at least - high 3.83 ERA. Oakland was a mess that year and after the season Vida went across the bay to the Giants for seven guys, the first one for seven trade ever.

In San Francisco Blue enjoyed a revival. He got off to a fast start in '78 and by the All-Star break was 12-4 with a 2.42 ERA. He was named that year's starter becoming the first pitcher to start the game for both leagues. He finished the year 18-10 and probably would have won the NL's Comeback award had not Willie Stargell had an even bigger turnaround. In '79 Vida went 14-14 as his ERA ballooned by more than two runs, probably because of continued shoulder problems. In '80 and '81 he was back to being an All-Star with sub-3.00 ERA's and a combined 22 wins ('81 was the strike year). After the '82 season he was sent to the Royals for four guys.

Back in the AL Blue would go 13-12 for a team between pennants. But in '83 it all hit the fan. On top of horrible stats - 0-5 with a 6.01 ERA - Vida would be busted for cocaine usage along with a bunch of other big leaguers and be forced to sit out the entire '84 season as well as do some jail time. Cut by KC during the '83 season he signed for '85 as a free agent back with the Giants. In '85 he went 8-8 and in '86 10-10 with a 3.27 ERA. The following January he signed back with Oakland as a free agent but before the season began he retired. While initially the rumors were that the retirement was fueled by more drug usage, Vida made a strong case for himself as to the unlikelihood of that since he was still constantly monitored by the authorities. His arm was done and he didn't think he could pitch effectively any more. Blue finished with a 209-161 record with a 3.27 ERA, 143 complete games, 37 shutouts, and two saves. The post-season was a lot tougher on him: 1-5 with a 4.31 ERA with two saves in 17 games. But he still got three rings.

By the late Eighties, Vida was back with the Giants, doing some coaching and working in the community relations department. He played in the Senior Leagues when it was around and also co-authored a couple books. He did a bunch of charity work as well. In the mid-2000's Vida had a relapse of sorts and after being busted a few times on drunk driving and then a parole violation lost his gig with the Giants. He did time in a halfway house and a work release. When he came out he was able to get a community work position with Oakland and re-start his charity work. I have linked to a nice piece here about his admittance into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (?!! - it's explained in the article).

I touched on all the star bullets above. That cartoon is pretty amazing. He also apparently himself rushed for 1,600 yards that season which seems crazy but who knows. That must have been a hell of a team. Vida passed up a football scholarship to the University of Houston to play ball. The middle name makes the full one even better. At one point Charlie O wanted Vida to change his first name to "True" but Vida nixed that one fast. It has always been tough for me to reconcile this fun-loving guy with the one described in some books as constantly calling out his Oakland teammates, particularly John Odom, who Vida was described as regarding an Uncle Tom type. That never seemed fair.

Vida gets the hook-up here with a Brewer, a team against which he had pretty good success:

1. Blue and Ted Kubiak '69 and '72 to '75 A's;
2. Kubiak and Rick Auerbach '71 Brewers.

Monday, December 12, 2011

#289 - Rick Auerbach

Again, huh? Another non-Traded traded card - maybe I should just call them NTT's - even though this trade is about a year old when this card was out. Here we have a mug shot of Rick Auerbach in an undisclosed location air-brushed into something resembling a Dodgers uniform. Rick went to LA from Milwaukee and in fact he and Gorman Thomas were teammates a couple times. He was picked up to be infield insurance for Bill Russell and would even see some playoff action. But outside of those ten at bats he didn't do anything up top in '73.

Rick Auerbach came out of Woodland Hills California where he played high school ball at Taft, a school attended by near-teammate Robin Yount a few years later. Rick went to Mesa Community College for a year, transferred to Pierce College (another local school) and was drafted by the new Seattle Pilots six rounds behind Mr. Thomas. In '69 he got things rolling at the same Rookie league team as Gorman but he graduated to A ball at mid-season. In '70 after a nice early average at that level he got booted up to Triple A and continued hitting .300 there. Then in '71 he stayed in Milwaukee after spring training and was one of about four guys to get starting time at shortstop. While he did as well as any of the other guys there his low average and anemic power got him returned mid-season to Triple A. Then in '72 he got the starting gig up top solo and although he was no Honus Wagner, offensively he probably wasn't too far off most other AL shortstops. But his fielding wasn't terribly hot either and in '73 early in the season he was sent to the Dodgers for Tim Johnson who would mostly succeed him that year at short.

In '73 Auerbach spent his Dodger season at Albquerque in Triple A. Then in '74 he assumed the primary back-up role to Russell and hit an uncharacteristic .342 in 73 at bats and then hit a double in his only post-season at bat. In '75 Russell got hurt and Rick played a bunch more but returned to Earth offensively with a .224 average in 170 at bats. After sitting a bunch in '76 he was sent to the Mets for Hank Webb. For NY he returned to the minors before he was sent to Texas as the guy to be named later when the Mets acquired Lenny Randle. A month later - after not playing anywhere - he was sold to Cincinnati. For the Reds he finished out the season up top mostly backing up Joe Morgan at second. Then from '78 to '80 he did his back-up thing but also got a bunch of at bats as a pinch hitter and two of those seasons topped .300 again, although in a limited amount of at bats. During the '80 season he was sold back to the Rangers for whom he again never played and in the off-season was involved in a big trade to Seattle that essentially swapped Richie Zisk for Willie Horton. For the Mariners in '81 he hit .155 before he was released at the end of the season, ending his playing career. Rick hit .220 in the regular season and .333 in four post-season games.

Auerbach returned to Woodland Hills - he never really left - and apparently got involved in local real estate. By the '90's he was a tax assessor and in '99 was named the chief Tax Assessor of LA County which he kept through 2009 (I am pretty sure it's the same guy even though the photos do not look terribly similar). He has been an avid bowler the past five years or so and a recent article linked to here profiles him in that regard.

These aren't terribly bad star bullets for a guy whose average was .213 at this point in his career. I come up blank with anything about Rick and taxidermy but it sure would have been an interesting tangent. Both he and Gorman Thomas ironically played for the Mariners years after they were originally drafted by the Pilots.

In music on this date in '74 guitarist Mick Taylor quit the Rolling Stones. Taylor had taken the place of Brian Jones shortly before the latter musician passed away in '70. The Stones were recording the album "Black and Blue" at the time and one of the fill-in guitarists, Ronnie Wood, would replace Taylor in the band.

This one will be pretty easy even though these guys almost never saw each other in the majors:

1. Auerbach and George Scott '72 to '73 Brewers;
2. Scott and Gorman Thomas '73 to '76 Brewers.

Friday, December 9, 2011

#288 - Gorman Thomas

Hey, it's a rookie card! In a pre-game - note all the kids leaning over the railings in the background - posed shot at Oakland, Stormin' Gorman gets his Topps debut. While his '73 season was a bit short of spectacular - to his posted stats add 61 strikeouts in limited work and you get the picture - it did presage a nice popular run in Milwaukee. Gorman's partially obscured number is 44 which he would have to give up in a couple seasons to a guy named Hank Aaron. But right now he looks carefree and clean-shaven. It wouldn't be too long before all his cards were full of hair.

Gorman Thomas was a star high school athlete in South Carolina who attended Florida State for a year before he was drafted by the new Seattle Pilots as a first rounder in '69. An infielder in high school, he played shortstop his first year in Rookie ball and produced very good numbers. '70 and '71 were spent in A ball, the first season at short and third and the second in the outfield, which was fine because that year he hit like an outfielder. He also struck out 170 times that season which would be a continuing feature of his career. In '72 he moved up to Double A, again put up strong offensive numbers, and put on an impressive display in the outfield. Despite his looks, Gorman was a graceful fielder with an excellent arm. He also had no problem crashing into walls. In '73 his numbers up top pushed him down to Triple A by mid-season. In '74 he had a big year at Triple A Sacramento, hitting .296 with 51 homers and 122 RBI's. But he got in dutch with the team's GM when he wouldn't come out and take a bow after every homer. The field on which his team played was a football field with very short foul lines of about 232 feet and Gorman didn't think his 233 foot home runs down the left field line were worthy of ovations. But Gorman was always a bit self-immolating. He hit more homers on the road that year than at home. Ironically, he didn't even lead his team in either power number. A guy named Bill McNulty hit .329 with 55 homers and 135 RBI's which earned him, as Gorman later noted, a one-way ticket to Japan.

After the big '74 season and a nice little run up top, Thomas stayed on the Brewers roster for all of '75 and '76. His numbers generally weren't great - his combined line was .188/18/64 in what added up to a full season - but about half his hits were for extra bases and he played well in the field. Still, he returned to Triple A for the '77 season and put up an excellent line: .322 with 36 homers and 114 RBIs and, with almost as many walks as strikeouts, an OBA of .436. That got him a ticket to Texas as the player to be named later in a trade for Ed Kirkpatrick. Prior to the '78 season George Bamberger was named Brewers manager and he wanted to know where the kid Thomas was. When he was told he was traded he asked the team to get him back which they did in a purchase before spring training. Nobody actually told Gorman about either trade. But when he showed up at camp that spring he was told he would be the starting center fielder which worked out fine for him. That year he hit 32 out in his first season as a regular and Milwaukee won 93, by far the team's highest total ever. For the next five years Gorman would be a power-hitting fan favorite who played an excellent center field and led the AL twice in homers (and twice in strikeouts). Three of those years he also had over 100 RBI's. In '81 he was an All-Star and Milwaukee reached the playoffs for the first time and in '82 they took a memorable Series to the seventh game.

1983 was no fun for Thomas. A nagging rotator cuff injury contributed to a relatively weak start power-wise and that June he and pitchers Jamie Easterly and Ernie Camacho were sent to the Indians for Rick Manning and Rick Waits. After finishing out the season in Cleveland he and Jack Perconte were traded to the Mariners for Tony Bernazard. In '84 the rotator cuff problem pretty much dismantled his season and he had surgery on it. It left him unable to play in the outfield and when he returned in '85 it was as the team's DH. While he hit only .215 that year, he did pound 32 homers and 87 RBI's to win the Comeback Player of the Year. It was a short-lived resurgence however as another sub-.200 start to the '86 season would result in his release. He returned to Milwaukee to finish out the year and then retired. Gorman finished with a .225 average, 268 homers, a .324 OBA and 782 RBI's. In the post-season he hit .102 with two homers and seven RBI's in 17 games.

Thomas has remained close to the Brewers franchise since playing. He has done some coaching work and makes community appearances for the team. He also has a restaurant at the stadium named Gorman's Grill. There is a long audio interview with him from a couple years ago linked to here. It is quite entertaining and cements his reputation as a down to earth guy who is actually pretty humble about his baseball achievements but has no problem speaking his mind.

Gorman is in the Wisconsin athletic hall of fame and was named by SI as one of South Carolina's best athletes. The second star bullet and the cartoon would later be linked when he called the Sacramento stadium in which he played in '74 when he knocked out 51 a pool hall. And that's some ugly signature.

We get to a pitcher for the hook-up:

1. Thomas and Mike Caldwell '78 to '83 Brewers;
2. Caldwell and Clay Kirby '71 to '73 Padres.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

#287 - Clay Kirby

Now is THIS the expression of someone who has just been traded from a doormat to a contender? Certainly not. THIS is the expression of a guy in his fifth straight year of playing for a last-place team while having his worst personal season doing so. The second non-Traded traded card in the last three cards has a mutton-chopped Clay Kirby looking forlorn in his airbrushed new colors. Yeah, '73 kind of sucked for Clay. But it couldn't have been as bad as that line drive he took off of his knee from Joe Torre's bat. Or that special night in '70.

Clay Kirby grew up in and around DC and went to a local prep school called Washington & Lee in Arlington where he was a local star and heavily recruited due to a 95 mph fastball. His senior year he threw a perfect game with 19 strikeouts. In '66 he was drafted by the Cards and had a rough start that summer in Rookie ball put picked things up in A ball. In '67 he served his military hitch and then threw over a strikeout an inning while going 3-4. In '68 he went a combined 12-9 split between Double and Triple A with pretty good ERA's at both levels. Later that year the new Padres snapped him as the 12th pick in that year's expansion draft.

Kirby immediately made the roster in San Diego in the team's initial year and would be their top starter the next five seasons. In '69, despite losing 20 to lead the NL in losses, he put up a pretty good ERA. In '70 the ERA went south although he improved his record by seven games. Not only that but on July 20th against the Mets Clay gave up a run in the first inning on two walks, a double steal, and a groundout. He then threw no-hit ball through the eighth inning when he was removed for a pinch hitter. His replacement on the mound then gave up a hit to the first batter he faced. It was a meaningless game - all Padres games back then tended to be after June - so pretty much everyone was dumbfounded at Clay's removal. That game has since been known as the curse as no Padre has thrown a no-hitter ever. But Clay was a good doobie and didn't complain. Good karma from that may have helped him in '71 when he posted a fine season, becoming the first Padre to record over 200 strikeouts. He also took two no-hitters into the eighth inning that year but each time was left in and couldn't go all the way. '72 was quite good also, although the losing record re-appeared and he missed nearly a month from an elbow injury. Then after the disappointing '73 season he was sent to the Reds for Bobby Tolan and Dave Tomlin. He left San Diego with 52 wins, by far the most of any Padre pitcher then.

In Cincinnati Kirby went 12-9 in '74 with a 3.28 ERA, more than returning to his '72 mode. In '75 he went 10-6 but a return of elbow problems elevated his ERA to 4.72 and kept him out of the post-season. He was traded after the season - in '76 he has a real Traded card - to Montreal for Bob Bailey. For the Expos the elbow rendered his arm toast and he went 1-8 with an ERA that climbed another run before being released. After a comeback attempt back with the Padres - he put up numbers at Triple A Hawaii similar to his Expos ones - he was done. Clay finished with a record of 75-104 with a 3.84 ERA, 42 complete games, and eight shutouts. After playing he returned to the DC area and ran a local fund-raising golf tournament that featured MLB players. He also may or may not have been involved in real estate. He passed away in '91 from a heart attack. He was only 43.

The one-hitter in the first star bullet was the second one mentioned above and was a perfect game through the eighth inning. Topps brings back the tiny print denoting the trade. Clay and Reggie Smith should have hooked up back then to build model cars together.

Thank God for the league changers:

1. Kirby and Johnny Jeter '71 to '72 Padres;
2. Jeter and Tony Muser '73 White Sox.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

#286 - Tony Muser

For a change we have a player photographed at Yankee Stadium. This time it's a White Sox and a guy who backed up my boy Dick Allen at first base for three years. In '73 Tony here actually got credit as the starter since he put up a few more at bats at the position due to Dick's injuries. It would be Tony's only season as a regular in Chicago and he did pretty well with his .285 average although he wasn't nearly the power guy Mr. Allen was. Like the subject of two posts ago, Mr. Muser would go on to have a much higher profile in his later professional endeavors than he did as a player.

Tony Muser was a Cali kid who went to San Diego Mesa College, a two-year school, to play ball. He was drafted by the Giants in '66 but shot them down. He was then drafted and signed by the Red Sox in '67 and that summer put up good offensive numbers in A ball, playing first base. In '68 he missed a bunch of time for military duty and returned to put up a good average but was a little lighter in the power department. In '69 he moved up to Triple A, did a bit better with his RBI totals, and got into some games for Boston. Ironically around this time all the scouting reports mentioned that Tony had to work on his defense. '70 was spent exclusively at the Triple A level and then prior to the '71 season he was traded to the White Sox with Vicente Romo for Duane Josephson and Danny Murphy.

Muser spent the bulk of '71 at Indianapolis, normally a Reds franchise, and put up similar numbers to his past couple seasons. In '72 his scouting report indicated his excellent defensive skills so he obviously did some work in that area. He began the year at Triple A Tucson and then moved up to provide some late-inning support at first for Allen. In '73 he got all that extra time and the following year worked off the bench and did DH work until Allen decided to "retire" with a month left in the season. In '75 Dick got sent to Atlanta - on his way back to Philly - and Tony shared starting time at first. But after batting .243 with six RBI's in 110 at bats he was traded that June to Baltimore for Jesse Jefferson. Tony revived his stroke for the O's, batting .317 the rest of the way, now as a reserve for Lee May. In '76 he hit a career high in at bats (326) and games (136) as May did a bunch of DH work. But Tony hit only .227 with zero power and with the arrival the next year of Eddie Murray he was back on the bench, also playing some in the outfield. Released prior to the '78 season, he was picked up by the Brewers and spent most of the season at Triple A Spokane where he hit .293 around a couple at bats up top when Cecil Cooper got hurt. In '79 Tony split the States to play a year in Japan and in his final season as a player put up a sub-.200 average. He hit .259 for his career and was a .284 hitter in the minors.

After Japan Muser returned to the Milwaukee system to manage. He was an immediate success, winning his league championship in Class A ball in '80 and getting to the championships again in '82 when he was in Double A. He managed in the minors for the Brewers through '84 and then was a Milwaukee coach up top from '85 to '89 and then returned to the minors, this time Triple A, to manage in Denver. He remained there through '92. In '93 he began a gig coaching for the Cubs. That lasted through mid-'97 when he was hired away to manage the Royals. Tony went 317-430 for KC until released in 2002. From '03 to '06 he would be bench coach of the Padres. He then managed in the San Diego system in '07 and since 2008 has been a roving minor league instructor. His record in the minors is 611-564.

These are pretty blase star bullets but I guess they do the job. Tony played high school ball in Lakewood but I can't get a handle on his stats there. In '86 he was badly burned in an explosion at a Brewer's facility and had to have extensive skin work. He has since been a regular visitor to burn units nationwide. He also has a baseball school he runs with his son. It is linked to here.

In the US and UK two new number one songs arrived in '74. "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas took over up top in the States, surprisingly - at least to me - over two months after it had done so in the UK. On THAT side of the pond, Barry White hit the top with "You're the First, the Last, My Everything." Besides deep-voiced love songs, Barry specialized in long song titles. For a little bit of - understandably - unknown trivia about Mr. White, one of his first bits of published recording he wrote was on a '45 one got from a cereal box. For those whose memory goes back that far, Barry wrote a song sung by the Banana Splits, or whoever actually sang the songs for that eponymous Saturday cartoon and variety show.

Muser and Smith both developed in the Red Sox system but Tony barely played there up top so we have to look elsewhere:

1. Muser and Mike Andrews '71 to '73 White Sox;
2. Andrews and Reggie Smith '67 to '70 Red Sox.

We will get to Andrews later when we discuss the Series cards.